Posted in Family, food, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Steak and Shake

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

We met when I was just a kid. A long time ago and in a galaxy far, far away (think Star Wars) one of my favorite things to do in the summer was to go and visit my sister and brother-in-law in Daytona Beach.  I lived in Jacksonville, and they were kind enough to invite me to spend a week with them.  Trust me…it was like a different world.  Our west Jacksonville neighborhood was half town and half country and the most exciting thing that ever happened was if there was a fire call, and we would chase the firetruck.  I’ll write more on that one day.

Now compare that with Daytona Beach.  Can someone say, “Night and day?”  Daytona Beach was a happening place and there was always something to do.  We would drive over to the beach, cruise the strip, and go out to eat.  One of my favorite places to go was Steak and Shake.  Back in the early and mid 60’s, it was not a new establishment, but it was still up and coming.  They were famous for their steak burgers, skinny fries, and milkshakes.  For a ten-year-old from the westside of Jacksonville, it was heaven.

Steak and Shake was different than most fast-food places.  There, you could go inside, be seated and be served, and through the years that is how it has remained.  When I grew up, it was only natural that Steak and Shake was one of my “go to” places to eat.  Oh, it wasn’t an every-week event, but we did go about once a month.  The routine was always the same.  Park, go inside and be seated, order, eat, and leave.  It worked well, but then something called COVID, and a broken economy changed things up.  First, and at most locations, you can now only go through the drive-thru.  But in now we have the new Steak and Shake.

Now at almost every location, when you walk in, there is not a hostess to seat you and no counter to order at.  Instead, there are several kiosks (computer touchscreens) and from there you can order your food.  Then…you just sit down…wherever you want.  Feel free to go up and get your drinks from the drink station and finally someone would bellow out your order number and you would walk up and get your food.  Boom—just like that burgers and fries were flying into hungry mouths washed down by delicious milkshakes.  It was new, it was different, and I loved it.

I am sure the shortage of workers is at least partially responsible for their new system, but it also shows that not all the changes are going to be bad.  At our church we are doing Wednesday nights totally different, and it is totally working.  We have a men’s group called “Man Time” (how creative is that); a women’s Bible study (well, not creative but it works) and then something called “The Big A Club” for the kids.  There are people everywhere.  And get this—men are coming to church on a Wednesday night! What?  And it all came about because of the pause that COVID caused.

Someone from ancient times (I’m not talking about 1950!) said the only thing constant is change and they were right.  Some of the changes are not good.  In fact, some of the cultural changes might be considered dangerous.  But we need to work to accept the good and temper the others.  It gives us a great opportunity to be the salt and light that Jesus talked to us about.  People all around us have lots of questions which should lead to lots of opportunities to talk about faith…and Jesus.

Romans 8:28 remains one of the most popular verses in the Bibles.  It says that for those who love God, He can bring good out of every situation.  We sure like to quote that, but I wonder if we are willing to trust it?  Hey, I’ve been writing three small words for almost three years and some of you have been here for that whole time— “He’s got this.”  So, as things morph around us, let’s be courageous enough to address the dangerous, but flexible enough to embrace the other.  It might not be easy but if He is in control and we trust Him…it’s gonna be fine.  And, can I say it one more time?  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, food, gratitude, life, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Bread, Potatoes and Pecan Pie

The One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4b

It came in the mail.  It was an advertisement, an offer really, to join a program that would not only help me control my diabetes but to reverse it.  If everything went according to plan, I could come off both of my diabetic meds and lose the “I’m diabetic” label.  There were two more things.  First, thanks to my insurance program, it would be provided to me at absolutely no cost to me.  I’m sure it is costing my insurance plenty, but the price for me was paid in full…hmmm, can someone else besides me see a parallel there.  Can someone say, grace, mercy, and Jesus?

The second thing was that the program would provide several things they called sensors…I call them gadgets.  First, there was one of those totally cool glucose monitors that you wear and through your smartphone it tells on the fly what your sugar level is.  Second, was a Garmin activity tracker that tells you all kind of stuff…more on that in a later story.  Third, was a scale that not only tells you your weight but also how much body fat you have.  This one, for obvious reasons, was not one of my favorites. Number four on the list was a meter that tells me if I have too many ketones.  I’m not sure what they do or what they are, but I know you don’t want too many of them.  Finally, there was a blood pressure “taker thinger” and it does just what it says.  What also made the cool list is the fact that all these things talk to an application on my phone and all that information is compiled and it tells me and them if I am failing or succeeding.

So, there you go.  No diabetes, no cost, lots of gadgets and only one problem.  When I talked to the nice lady on the phone, she told me there wouldn’t be a lot of weird food like tofu or jellyfish eggs.  What she didn’t tell me was that there wouldn’t be any really good food on the program either.  Well, to be fair, that is not totally true.  In fact, there are a lot of foods that I can eat and some a southern boy like me even like but there was no bread, no potatoes, no anything that had carbohydrates in them—and that is about every good thing besides meat and eggs.  Hmmm…we have a problem.

Now all this is made worse by the fact that I have my sugar 100% under control.  I turned the sweets thing almost totally off and cut way back on the starchy stuff and my sugar quickly plummeted.  Thank you, sir…mission accomplished…but not quite.  You see, if you remember my new friends want me to get off medicine. However to get off the medicine, I have to give up a whole category of stuff that I love and have loved all my life.  The problem is I am quite content to take a couple of pills if they will allow me to eat some of my favorites.  I am quite willing to let the two, my self-control and my medicine, work together.  Honestly, it would probably be better for me to ditch the medicines but no bread, no potatoes, and worst of all, no, none, never pecan pie.  What?

I think this is just a human nature thing and as you know our human nature can get us in trouble.  Another name for our human nature is our sinful nature and our sinful nature wants us to sin—maybe not a whole lot but at least some of our favorites.  We usually think the price is worth it.  So, we control this and control that but often refuse to take the giant leap into total surrender.  I know there is a difference between indulging in bread and lust or potatoes and anger but the principle is the same.  We want what we want—even if the price is high and it is.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do about this new thing I’m enrolled in.  I think I am going to try and find a place somewhere in the middle.  I know that isn’t the best solution but regardless that is probably where I will land.  But hear me clearly—that does not work with sin.  With sin the best thing you can do is run fast and hard in the opposite direction.  Remember this…sin will always win, and it will take you further and cost you more than you think.  That is why our Father sent His Son, that is why the Son died and resurrected and that is why we need Him to rescue and save us.

Listen, all the cool sin gadgets in the world aren’t worth what they cost in the end.  It will cost you a whole lot more than a pile of mashed potatoes.  Just remember, what you can’t do on your own, you can do with Him. 1 John 4:4b says, “The One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”  In other words, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, Southern born, thankful, travel, Trials

Snakes from Heaven

Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father. James 1:17

Plop and there he was.  When we made our last trip to the land of collards and grits, aka South Georgia, we of course had to make the rounds visiting the relatives. Mostly they were on the Allen side. There is my wife Judy’s oldest sister, a couple of old brothers (oops, I meant to say older), a somewhat, younger sister and a host of nieces, nephews and a few Cousin Eddie’s.

Well, one day, we were out in the country visiting her oldest brother Smitty and his wife Marie.  A while back Smitty suffered a stroke and lost his ability to speak…well…he still talks up a storm and with passion, it’s just we can only understand a few words.  Regardless…we always enjoy the visits.  Smitty has always been quite the character and it would take more than a stroke to change that.  So, we visited, and visited, and then we visited some more.  Finally, it was time to move on to the next relative. When we stood to leave Marie said, “I’m gonna get this room cleaned out and y’all can stay with us next time.” The room was separate from the house with its own bathroom and entrance. I told her that sounded really good.

Before we could move on to the car and make the great escape, she said, “Well, let me show you this room.”  She and I made our way to the door and with her leading the way, she opened the door and I followed.  As she opened the door and walked through, I stepped into the doorway behind her, and just about then, a snake, yes-a real live snake, fell from the door-casing and landed not more than a foot from me.  As it hit the floor it made a nice plopping sound.  I made another kind of sound.

So, let me set this up, Marie is in the room, totally unaware of what has fallen right behind her, I am in the doorway fully aware of what has fallen right in front of me, and our new friend is looking at both of us with a real attitude.  The snake had my full attention, so I got Marie’s attention and as we watched he set about trying to bite us—striking at her and striking at me.  You’ve probably heard stories about how feisty a little chihuahua can be, well, this snake was part chihuahua. I realize he was only about twelve inches long, but for all intents and purposes, he was the size of an Amazon boa-constrictor. It was time for him to leave.

Marie, who is 100% South Georgia born and raised, went, and got a hoe and well, let’s just say Mr. Snake went to meet his maker.  If you like snakes, sorry.  But if you are like me and firmly believes that the only good snake is one that is not breathing…well, you understand.  So, what is the moral of this short story?  What is the big truth?  Well, I’m pretty sure for me it involves not being surprised at what can plop down right in front of you when you least expect it.  Things can change quickly.  The really, really big lesson is about gratitude.  You see, if Mr. Snake had waited just about five more seconds to plop…he would have plopped right on my head, fallen into my shirt and I would have died of a heart attack.

We could talk about why the snake fell in the first place, but I think I’ll spend my time thanking the good Lord for those five seconds.  You see, time after time as we journey through life, there are dozens of little blessings.  All we must do is look for them instead of staring at the circumstances.  James, the half-brother of Jesus and a man that I am sure did not like snakes said, “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father.”  Well, this gift indeed did come down and sure enough it was good because it taught me not to complain about falling snakes but rather to be thankful for where it landed—or didn’t land.  Now if it had landed on my head and slithered into my shirt, well I am sure my Dearest Daddy would still have said, “Don’t worry, son, I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, food, friends, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Bare Shelves and God’s Faithfulness

So don’t worry, saying, What will we eat or what will we drink? or what will we wear? For [those who don’t trust God] eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”  Matthew 6:31-32

One of the things (among at least two billion) that was weird about the time during and since COVID was the various shortages that we experienced. Some were expected and some were not. It really was (and still is) a strange sensation to go to the store and find everyday things not there every day. Oh, and did I mention inflation? It seemed like the land of plenty had become something else.

I’m not much for going grocery shopping and that is probably a real paradox. I really like food–we are great friends–just not buying and preparing it. I remember sometime last year Judy and I went to the park for a walk (good idea–walk with your wife…she cooks food) and then I agreed to go with her to WalMart to get a few items.

So, we get to the store and there was in fact plenty of food there. For sure some items were sold out (toilet paper—remember that? Still have a supply stashed?) but others were plenteous. The cookie isle was hard hit but strangely the broccoli wasn’t. But the shocker was when I got to the bread isle it was empty…bare. For a southern boy who was raised to believe that bread is its own food group, well, that was a crisis of Biblical proportions.

It made me think about the children of Israel and their trips to the grocery store. For forty years they would walk outside the camp and there all around them were little mounds of manna. The Bible describes manna as small, round and sweet (Krispy Kreme’s?) and it was always there. Never a time did they go out when the store was open (it was closed for the Sabbath) and the shelf was bare.

God was teaching them—and us—something. They couldn’t hoard (can someone say toilet paper?) because God told them to go out every day and get one day’s supply. The only exception was the day before the Sabbath when they could get two. And every day they went and there were the “Krispy Kreme’s” all around and they would pick them up and God would say, “I am good, I am faithful, and I can be trusted.”

Day after day, week after week, month after month–“I am good, I am faithful, and I can be trusted.” Never a bare shelf, never a failure to deliver, never an oops. Can you imagine? As Jesus followers, I think we can and should. We may not have manna laying around today, but we do have the faithfulness of that same God. He takes care of His kids. You can bank on it.

Jesus talked about this in the Bible when He said, “So don’t worry, saying, What will we eat? or what will we drink? or what will we wear? For [those who don’t trust God] eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” Let that soak in.  We don’t have to worry because we have a Dearest Daddy who loves us and cares for us.  Period.

So, as we reflect on the past and present, and look forward to the days to come, we can rest in the blessed assurance that God will be there. We need to remember every time there is a need met or a blessing given, to say, “Thank You, Father.” And slowly but surely, we will learn the valuable lesson of God’s faithfulness. God is good. God is faithful. God can be trusted. He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, life, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Walking Away

“I am doing important work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” Four times they sent me the same proposal, and I gave them the same reply.” Nehemiah 3b-4

Well, it was definitely smarter than me.  We live in a world of smart devices. I remember years ago when phones were just getting smart, and I was all in up to my eyeballs.  Through the years, I have been amazed as device after device got smarter and smarter. Everything from locks to thermostats to televisions got smarter and smarter and smarter.  And then one day, they got smarter than me.

A while back I bought some smart plugs.  These little wonders allow me to control a device either from my smartphone or with my girlfriend Alexa.  I just tell her to turn on the lights and she does.  In my living room, I have several lights all plugged into a couple of these smart plugs.  All I have to do is say, “Alexa, turn on the living room lights” and just like that all the lights come on.  Want to turn them off?  No, problem.  Just tell Alexa and she will turn them off.  How great.  How smart.  How awesome.

Well, one day my smart world came crashing.  All the smart plugs became very not smart.  None of the lights would turn on and none would turn off.  After an hour or so I figured out I needed to restart my internet modem and bam…just like that…we were back in business…almost.  There was one plug that didn’t get the message. It said no, nada, ain’t gone happen.  Well, I figured if I messed with it long enough, I could persuade it to get on board.  I was wrong.

I messed with it and messed with it and then messed with it some more.  It wasn’t a matter of minutes but hours.  I finally gave up and went to bed, but I am not one to throw in the towel.  First thing in the morning, after coffee and Jesus, I started in again and it wasn’t long before all that Good News Jesus stuff had leaked out and I was one frustrated dude.  And just about that time it occurred to me to…just stop…and I did.

I picked up the tools and put them away and walked away.  It occurred me that nothing including a smart plug gone dumb or one that was smarter than me should have that much control over me.  And guess what.  That particular light still does not have a plug…at least not one that is smart.  I might give it another shot one day but that day was not yesterday, is not today and probably won’t be tomorrow.  It just isn’t that important. Let’s be honest…I like to win but there are times when walking away is better than fighting a battle that doesn’t matter.

Someone once told me to be sure and choose my battles carefully.  We need to learn to ask, “Is this a hill worth dying on?”  So often our pride keeps us in the fight long after the fight doesn’t matter—after the fight has long left us. So, when you find yourself beating your head against a wall or bumping into that same stubborn wall, ask yourself, “Does this really matter?” Now if it does you stay in there but if it doesn’t don’t let your pride keep you where you don’t belong.

You know, Jesus knew about “hills worth dying on.”  The one that held Him and His cross, Calvary, was so important nothing, and I do mean nothing, could keep Him from it.  At the same time, He knew when to walk away…to let it go. We should do the same. Nehemiah, one of the guys in the Old Testament, was on mission to rebuild the wall that surrounded his hometown Jerusalem. His enemies kept trying to distract him so he finally said, “I am doing important work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?”  Isn’t that great? And four times they tried and four times he said no. He simply refused to leave what mattered for something that didn’t.

So, like the song Kenny Rogers made famous, “You need to know when to hold them, know when to fold them and know when to walk away.” It will not only make your life easier, but it just might also make it more purposeful.  Need a little help figuring out when to do what?  No problem, just ask the One who is never wrong.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel

Greener Pastures

For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13

He was standing right in the road.  A while back my wife Judy and I were on the road again…heading for middle Tennessee.  We like to travel a lot…it’s just something we enjoy.  We love to see what’s new and different and there is always something.  We were on our way to a waterfall, and we had to travel down a narrow winding road.  As we were zipping along, at the breakneck speed of 25 mph, we rounded a curve in the road and there he was.

He was a young calf, oh, I would guess about 250 pounds grown.  He was calmly eating some weedy grass along the shoulder of the road.  It wasn’t a deal because I was going so slow but if I had been traveling a little faster…well, he could have been ground beef.  Oh, and by the way, what do you call a cow with no legs? Ground beef.  Get it?  Well, I probably lost some readers with that one.  Anyway, I slowed down a bit more and gently swerved around the calf.  I told Judy we should have snapped a picture.

As we drove around the calf, I couldn’t help but notice a couple of things.  First, his name must have been Houdini because there was no gate and as far as I could tell, we couldn’t see a hole in the fence where my new friend could have escaped.  Second, as he contentedly munched on his weedy grass, on the other side of the fence was a great pasture just filled with nice, lush, green grass.  It was obviously where he had been before he did his Houdini thing and escaped.  Why in the world would he leave that for where he was is beyond me.  The only answer I could come up with is…the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

Well, we went on our way, and I told Judy when we came back let’s be sure and get his picture.  So, on the return trip as we neared the curve where he was before, we found an empty road.  Our friend had disappeared.  We traveled on a short distance and soon, off to our right, we found our calf.  Houdini had once again magically crossed the fence and this time was back in the greener pasture. How about that?  There were only two possible solutions.  One, he decided it was time to go home or two, in a moment of indecision he decided the grass was indeed greener on the other side of the fence…again.

Strangely, I can identify with the indecisive calf.  I mean, how many times have I changed my mind about this or that.  I know sometimes it takes me fifteen minutes to decide what toothpaste to buy or what to get on my hamburger.  I guess the bottom line is that we are a fickle bunch, aren’t we?  But I am so glad that God isn’t fickle.  I sometimes pray and tell God how glad I am that He has never changed His mind about allowing me into the family.  I mean I am sure I have given Him lots of reasons to do that but it never seems to faze Him.  I like that. A lot.

So, if you find yourself wondering back and forth in-between the pastures of life, just remember that when it comes to you and His love for you, well, God isn’t looking for greener pastures or different or better people for that matter. God loves people, all people, and anyone who wants to come and graze in His pasture is more than welcome.  The gate is always open to anyone who is willing to leave their old pasture and put their faith in His Son Jesus.  It’s that simple.  There’s a verse in the New Testament of the Bible that says anyone who is willing to ask can be forgiven and cross over to His ultimate green pasture.  So, how about you?  Ready to switch pastures?  He’s ready if you are.  You will find the gate open and Him showing you the way.  Trust me…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, heaven, life, prayer, Scripture, thankful, travel

And They Sang

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the expanse proclaims the work of His hands. Day after day they pour out speech; night after night they communicate knowledge.” Psalm 19:1-2

I think He was just showing off.  In one of our more creative moments, either my wife Judy or I thought it would be a great idea to take a little overnighter for Valentine’s Day.  So, we did.  There is place called Camp Ondessonk about 24 miles from our house.  They have a great cabin there and we decided to rent it for Friday night.  Now when I say cabin don’t think like rustic and primitive…think nice…like nicer than a Holiday Inn.  Well, we made a day of it.  First, we drove a couple of hours to a very special restaurant and had a great lunch.  Then we drove up to Paducah for a quick visit with one of the kids and their kids.  It was a great time.

Finally, it was time head to the camp and our cabin.  I have to admit I was a bit reluctant at first because it was a little pricy and I said to myself, “Self, it can’t be that nice.”  Well, once again, I was wrong because it really was…nice. We settled in and watched a little television.  Yes, they even had internet and television…I was just hoping for running water and indoor plumbing.  After a while, Judy said she was going to go out and check out the stars.  It was already below freezing and at first, I thought she had dropped a couple of her marbles.  Mark it down…wrong twice.

In a few minutes, she came back in and said, “Dewayne, you have to come outside and see this.  The stars are brighter than Africa.”  Now, I realize you probably haven’t been to Africa and looked up at the stars on a clear night.  They are so amazing I figured there was at least a possibility that she was exaggerating…just a little bit.  I slipped on my shoes and joined her on the deck.  She was right.  Without much light pollution, the stars were literally breathtaking. Imagine a field of diamonds, of every color of white and blue and all of different caret sizes. Now, imagine again and again and again. It was wonderful.

Well, we finally went back inside but before bedtime we wandered out one more time.  It seemed we couldn’t get enough of God’s wonder show.  Finally, it was bedtime and since we were in the middle of nowhere, Judy suggested we raise the blinds in the bedroom.  We did and lying there in bed we had a front row seat to the show all over again.  I just knew we were going to see a falling star or two but we didn’t but that was ok because the razzle, dazzle of the stars was more than enough.  All through the night, when I woke up to roll over, there they were shouting, singing, and showing the glory of God.

I know I might overuse this verse in Grits but this time, well, it is just so appropriate not to.  In the Old Testament part of the Bible, Psalms19:1-2, it says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the expanse proclaims the work of His hands. Day after day they pour out speech; night after night they communicate knowledge.” I have long loved that verse but after Friday I not only love it, but I also more fully understand it.  There before my eyes was part of God’s creation and their job was simply to proclaim His glory and they did it well…very well.

Judy and I are already planning another trip to one of our new favorite places. I sure hope when we go the skies are once again clear so God’s starry sky can once again proclaim His glory.  Lee Ann Womack sings a song about creation and God.  In that song she sings, “There is a God, there is a God, there is a God…how much proof do you need?  Well, I don’t know about you, but Friday night was enough for me.  Let me encourage you to go and find a good dark place the next time the skies are crystal clear.  Then…look up.  And if the world is dark enough you will see the choir singing about Him and then do two things.  First, remember He who made that made you and loves you immensely.  Second, remember and never forget that no matter what we are facing, He is bigger, and He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

Right Results. Wrong Guy.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

I was driving and the phone rang. A few weeks ago, I signed up for an intense program provided by my insurance company to help manage my sugar problem.  I am in the very early stages of the program and one of the first things they did was provide an appointment to get a complete workup on my blood.  When the results came back, they were generally pretty good.  My own efforts to get my sugar numbers down had worked very well but it came at a price.  As I began to eat virtually no sugar and far less carbohydrates, I began to eat more protein…mainly meat and cheese.  Well, as the sugar numbers came down, my cholesterol numbers went up…not in the “oh, no” range but in the “You need to watch this” range.

Well, I was driving back from a funeral and the phone in my car rang.  You need to know my phone comes through my radio, so this was a hands-free call. Though I didn’t know the number, I decided to answer it anyway.  It turned out to be one of the doctors from my new program.  She said she needed to discuss some of the results on my labs.  I thought she was going to praise me for the relatively good numbers but instead she began a series of questions that clearly indicated she was very concerned.  Did I feel ok? Did I have a headache? Was I experiencing any chest pains? Shortness of breath?  Did I feel excessively tired or confused? I told her I was feeling very well and asked what was going on.

She explained they had received a second set of numbers from the lab and in a word, they were horrible—in fact, they were life threatening.  She told me she wanted to schedule another blood draw immediately and suggested I might need to go to the emergency room.  She promised to get back with me very quickly to see what the next step should be. Well, when I got back to the office, I rechecked my results and sure enough they were good.  Something didn’t make sense. Well, soon the phone rang again and it was a nurse checking back.  Apparently, almost assuredly, the lab had sent another set of results to them in my name—and they were most certainly bad.  To be sure, though, they scheduled me for another test and while the results are pending I’m sure I’m good.  But someone is not.

Out there somewhere is a person who most certainly does not feel well and who probably is going to get some really upsetting news.  They are sick…very sick. While I am very glad that person is not me, I couldn’t help but think about that poor soul who was about to get some yucky news.  If it wasn’t so serious it would be funny.  Trust me, if I knew who and where, I would be calling or knocking and letting them know they need to get the doctor…fast. I would let them know they were in danger of dying.  I wouldn’t let anything stop me.  They need to know the truth.

I know that would be the right thing to do. I would do it and most likely you would too.  But what about this?  Every day we bump into people who are in a greater danger than my unknown friend.  Every day we pass people who have no assurance of what is on the other side of their last heartbeat.  Every day we see and talk to people who are facing life and eternity without the hope of Jesus and the love of God in their lives.  They either haven’t heard or haven’t acted on the greatest news ever—that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

You see, just because my unknown friend doesn’t know, that does not exclude him from the consequences he is about to face.  Bad numbers are still bad numbers whether he or she knows them or not.  But they deserve the opportunity to act and that is where you and I come in.  Oh, I could assume they wouldn’t want to know.  I could assume they might be offended but wouldn’t they deserve the chance to know, to act, to decide?  Sure, they would.

If you are a Jesus follower, if your “numbers” are good today because of grace, if you can call God “Dearest Daddy,” why not share that news when an opportunity comes knocking?  We often let the fear of rejection override our willingness to share hopeful and helpful news.  Let’s let that stop today.  Let’s let someone know of a God who loves them.  Skip the spiel on religion and get to the heart of the matter…God loves them and no matter what they have done He will forgive them.  They need to know that He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, missions, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials

I Can’t Hear You

But Peter said, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!” Acts 3:6 (CSB)

I can’t hear you.  A friend and I were standing on the shores of an island in Lake Victoria, Uganda, East Africa.  He was telling a Jesus story to a man and trying to determine if he knew Jesus.  While he was sharing another man walked up and began to listen.  At the end of the story, we asked a couple of questions.  The first man indicated that he knew this Jesus.  The other did not.  And he couldn’t hear.

Let me explain.  It wasn’t that he had a hearing problem.  His ears were working quite well.  It wasn’t that he couldn’t understand.  Our friend understood English and when we hit a bump our translator would jump in and help.  But he couldn’t hear.  Then he explained the problem.  He said something like, “I can’t hear about this Jesus because my stomach is so hungry.”

Now hunger is not usually a big issue in Uganda.  While the food may not be the best nutritionally it is usually sufficient in quantity.  Our friend was one of the exceptions.  For whatever reason he hadn’t eaten that day or maybe the day before.  The growling of his stomach was blocking his heart from hearing the message.  We tried to explain that while we may hunger here, God had a place in heaven where no one would be hungry. I decided to tell him another story from the Bible.

I told him the story of Peter and John entering the temple.  You can read it in Acts 3:1-10. It goes something like this. There was a crippled man there who made a living begging.  When he saw Peter and John, he thought they could help.  He looked up expectedly and perhaps even lifted his hand to receive a coin or two.  While his hand remained empty, he got something more than a coin.  Peter said, “We don’t have silver or gold but what we do have we will give you.  In the name of Jesus of Nazareth rise up and walk.”

As Peter reached his hand down and the man reached up, his ankles received healing strength and he stood and walked into the temple.  I smugly smiled my preacher smile.  The perfect story.  The perfect truth. Eternal is better than temporary. Surely my friends would see it, and everyone would go their way happy.  Only it didn’t happen.

I asked him “So what is better a few coins now or something that can change your life forever?”  I, of course, expected him to agree that the gift of eternal life is certainly more and better than a few coins or a quick meal.  His answer caught me totally off guard. He replied, “A few coins or some food.”  What?  I couldn’t believe what he was saying.  Surely, he understood.  Surely, I had made the story clear.

Then he said it.  “Heaven is good, but I am hungry now. I need food now.”  Well, sadly, he wandered off.  Still hungry.  Still lost. My friend continued to share with the first man but my heart was heavy and my mind on the other man.  Suddenly, I saw him again standing a few yards away. It was then I heard the Whisperer whisper.  It was short and simple.  “Give him food” the Whisperer said.  I had totally forgotten that in my backpack I had some tuna, chips, crackers for my own lunch.  I dug several items from my bag, as did my friend.

I walked over to the man and said, “This isn’t much but I hope it will quieten your stomach so you can hear Jesus.” He quickly took the food and left. There’s no bow on the package, no happily ever after ending, no prayer to receive Jesus.  But I know two things. I know he knew we cared, and I know he heard the truth and this time that had to be enough.  Maybe the seed would sprout later…only eternity will tell.

I learned a couple of things that day.  I learned that sometimes before we can share the Good News of the Gospel with a person, we need to touch them in a real tangible way.  A casual God bless you and a pat on the back doesn’t do much for an anxious soul or a hungry stomach.  We must talk Jesus, we must share Jesus, but we must be Jesus.  Someone said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

In these crazy, troubling times people need more than a sermon—they need to know we care.  How do we do that?  That’s the second thing I learned.  We must listen for the Whisperer.  We need to be sensitive to His gentle nudges. We must still our own souls and hearts if we are to hear His gentle voice. These days call for new ways…different ways.

So, as you walk about life, keep your eyes open, your heart still and watch in wonder at what God can do through you.  You don’t have to be in Africa to be on mission.  That can happen, must happen right here, right now.  And in these days of fear and frustration people are more ready to hear about God than ever before.  What a privilege to be entrusted with God’s work.  Up for the challenge?  God believes so.  Remember, He’s really big on you.  So, rest in Him.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, priorities, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, wisdom

The Captain and the Wind

Oh, Lord God! You Yourself made the heavens and earth by Your great power and with Your outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for You!” Jeremiah 32:17

It was the gift of a lifetime. It was 1997 and we were experiencing the gift of a lifetime—the trip of a lifetime. The church where we pastored had honored us with a massive trip to the Holy Land in celebration of our tenth anniversary as their pastor.  I’ve shared some of those incredible times once or twice before in Grits. Recently though I was reminded of a part of the trip that was a small part of a big story and teaches a powerful lesson about us and God.

After a quick visit to Greece and a long visit to the Holy Land, we found ourselves in the land of Pharaohs.  How incredible to stand where the children of Israel once slaved and worked.  How amazing to stand where Moses stood as he spoke for the great, “I AM,” and spoke the words on behalf of God, “Let My people go.”  The pyramids, the great sphinx, the museums, the history all were breathtaking and then there was—the Nile.

Though my wife Judy and I have now seen and been on the Nile several times…back then it was the first time…and there’s nothing like the first time.  As part of our trip, we took a day trip on this ancient and mighty river.  There were all kinds of vessels on the river that day from small to very large, from very old to newer and from those powered by sails and those powered by massive engines.

Ours was powered by diesel.  As we prepared to leave the port, the captain of the vessel fired up the engines and soon we were underway.  With the powerful engine, the vessel went in the direction and speed that the captain desired.  It was impressive but there was something else there on the river that was equally so.  All around us were boats not powered by gas or diesel but by the wind.  Silently and gracefully, they cut through the water…not as fast as others but somehow more impressive…more desirable.

What was it that was so attractive?  It was the fact that they did not depend on their own power—they depended on a power outside of themselves—bigger than themselves.  They moved at a pace and the whim of the wind. Oh, there was a human hand on the rudder and there was skill in the positioning of the sail but still it was the wind that moved the boat. And, unlike our vessel, the captain and crew never had to worry about breaking down or running out of fuel.  And somehow, that just seemed better…richer.

I read a devotion by a guy named Aussie Dave (you have to love that name) that pointed out this vast difference.  And I learned that it wasn’t about boats at all…it was about us…and our lives…and how we choose to live our lives.  Oh, we can motor along through life, seemingly controlling our fate, our direction, our speed, and all that might work, will work, until the engine breaks down or we run out of fuel. And, trust me, there will be a time in life when both will happen and it is just about then we will realize the value of trusting something bigger, Someone bigger, with our journey. That, of course, is Creator God—the One who created it all—including the wind.

If I’m guessing right, a lot of us wrestle with letting the Creator of the wind propel our vessels…our lives.  We simply want to be in charge…to determine the direction and details of our trip but remember this.  Along the shores of Nile were abandoned vessels…broken down and wore down and long abandoned. And while there may have been a few sailing vessels along that same shore, they were always a candidate to be rebuilt—to be redeemed and that too is the story of those who trust in a Captain that made it all. With this Captain…nothing is impossible.

Judy and I will never forget that journey or the people who made it possible. It was a generous and sacrificial gift given from our friend’s hearts.  We will also never forget the generous and sacrificial gift of our Dearest Daddy who makes life, our lives, so rich and purposeful and our eternity so…well, sometimes there just aren’t words.  I hope you have chosen God as your Captain and I hope you will pause even now and listen.  Even when the wind goes still and your progress so slow, listen carefully as the Whisperer whispers, “I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne